Title of The Sound and The Fury

Title of The Sound and The Fury

Q. What is the significance of the Title of The Sound and The Fury and its Connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth?


William Faulkner’s “The Sound and The Fury” draws its title from a poignant soliloquy in Shakespeare’s tragic play Macbeth. This essay will investigate the connection between these two literary masterpieces, “The Sound and The Fury” and Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” It will examine how the shared themes form a backdrop to discuss the essence of human life and behaviour.

The Human Futility

In ‘The Sound and The Fury,’ William Faulkner deviates from conventional narrative structures. He chooses a non-linear timeline that demands the reader’s effort in piecing together the fragments of the story. This narrative strategy echoes the essence of Macbeth’s despairing soliloquy, framing life as,

A tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Through the fragmented perspectives of Benjy, Quentin, and Jason Compson, Faulkner amplifies this existentialist view of life. The struggles, sorrows, and chaos experienced by the characters are devoid of any profound existential revelations, personal growth, or societal improvement.

The Macbethian Reference

“The Sound and The Fury,” with its title and complex narrative structure, takes its name from a memorable soliloquy delivered by Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most tragic characters. The soliloquy expresses Macbeth’s deep despair and existential crisis. It also reflects the fleeting and meaningless nature of human life and ambition.

This reference to Macbeth’s soliloquy becomes a powerful connection, a bridge across centuries. It links the 17th-century Elizabethan tragedy to Faulkner’s 20th-century American narrative.

Macbeth’s soliloquy paints a vivid picture of life as a brief and futile play, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. These words resound with the themes of Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury.

By using the Macbethian reference, Faulkner intentionally parallels the moral disintegration in Macbeth’s persona and the gradual downfall of the once highly respected Compson family.

Macbeth’s insatiable ambition propels him towards moral decay and eventual ruin. Similarly, the Compson family mirrors this path as their moral decline leads to social downfall.

This knot of ambition and moral degradation that entwines “Macbeth” and “The Sound and The Fury” intensifies the intertextual connection between the narratives. It reveals their mutual exploration of hopelessness, society’s deterioration, and the fear of life’s meaninglessness.

The tragedy that unfolds in Macbeth’s life is spurred by his ambition, leading to moral, psychological, and societal disintegration. This is echoed in Faulkner’s portrayal of the Compson family. Their battles with time, memory, and societal shift mirror Macbeth’s fight with power, morality, and the unstoppable march of time.

William Faulkner’s narrative is not a mere copy of Shakespeare’s tragedy. However, it artfully repositions it within the unique context of the Southern United States. It underscores the timeless nature of Shakespeare’s examination of human ambition, moral decline, and existential angst.

Therefore, Faulkner’s choice of title serves not just as a compass to guide the themes of his novel but also as a salute to Shakespeare. It recognizes the everlasting pertinence of Bard’s existential commentary.

This intertextual conversation between “The Sound and The Fury” and “Macbeth” enhances our comprehension of both narratives. It highlights shared themes and human life’s fleeting, turbulent essence.

Faulkner meticulously depicts the decaying Southern aristocracy through the downfall of the Compson family. It mirrors the power dynamics seen in Macbeth’s journey.

The Enigma of Benjy Compson

Benjy Compson, often described as an ‘idiot’ due to his mental disability, uniquely interprets Macbeth’s soliloquy. His jumbled perceptions of time and inability to comprehend complex human motivations can be perceived as a physical embodiment of the “tale / Told by an idiot” from Macbeth’s speech.

Despite this, Benjy’s narrative brims with raw emotional resonance, suggesting that his perspective may carry more significance than it initially seems.

The Tragic Hero: Quentin Compson

Quentin Compson’s fixation on his sister Caddy’s purity and agonizing battle with incestuous desires reflect a haunting resemblance to the tragic arc of Macbeth’s life.

Quentin becomes like a ghostly presence, caught in an unending cycle of self-imposed pain and torment. Though noble, his strong moral beliefs clash with the world’s complex realities. It drives him towards a path that embodies the intense emotions and chaos expressed in the phrase “sound and fury.”

Through Quentin’s painful journey, Faulkner shows the forever human battle against the short and seemingly pointless nature of existence.

Quentin’s unwavering preoccupation with safeguarding Caddy’s purity stems from his desperate yearning for order and virtue in an increasingly chaotic world. He sees Caddy as perfectly pure. It shows his inner turmoil if he thinks she loses any of her innocence.

The added weight of his incestuous desires only deepens his internal conflict as societal taboos clash violently with his overpowering love for his sister. These interwoven battles within Quentin’s psyche become a wellspring of profound psychological torment. It mirrors the intricate internal struggles that beset Macbeth on his tragic path.

As Quentin’s inner struggles grow, he undergoes a profound transformation, becoming a tragic figure consumed by the turmoil within his thoughts. His relentless quest for purity and righteousness drives him down a destructive path. Ultimately, it led him to make the heart-wrenching choice to end his life.

This heartbreaking decision echoes the path of Macbeth, as both characters surrender to their internal battles, unable to find harmony between their moral values and the harshness of their world.

Jason Compson: A Portrait of Bitterness and Cruelty

Jason’s narrative introduces another dimension to understanding the novel’s title. His bitterness and cruelty, driven by his resentment of his siblings and unfulfilled desires, amplify the “sound and fury” in the Compson family. His characters symbolize the societal changes sweeping the South during this time, echoing Macbeth’s struggle with power and morality.


By mixing ideas from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” Faulkner creates a story in “The Sound and The Fury.” This story looks into the nature of human existence, action, and societal decline.

The echo of Macbeth’s soliloquy in the novel’s title frames the story. It casts light on life’s fleeting and often tragic nature. However, despite the despair and hopelessness that permeates the novel, Faulkner’s characters experience moments of profound emotional intensity.

It suggests that chaotic and transient life is not entirely meaningless. Through the disintegration of the Compson family, Faulkner paints a bleak yet resonating picture of life – full of sound and fury, perhaps, but also full of moments that defy the void of insignificance.

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